The Pride of London would like to wish Chelsea FC legend Gianfranco Zola a very happy 48th birthday as we take a look back on his brief but wonderful time at Stamford Bridge. Then manager Ruud Gulit, who was looking to add some foreign flair to the Blues, brought Gianfranco Zola to Chelsea in November of 1996 for a fee of £4.5 million.
Zola made his debut for Chelsea against Blackburn Rovers and he had a memorable first season. He was already a key player in his first season and helped the Blues capture the FA Cup at the end of the 1996-97 season. He was voted the Football Writers’ Association player of the year and became the first Chelsea player to win it and the first to win it without having played a full season in England.
In his second season, Zola lead Chelsea to another three trophies in the Cup Winners’ Cup, the League cup, and the Super Cup. In 1999, Zola was also a key player in Chelsea’s first Champions League campaign in 1999 by leading them to the quarterfinals and helping the Blues capture the FA Cup once again.
In his final season with the Blues in 2002-03, Zola had one of his finest seasons in a Chelsea shirt. He scored 16 goals in all competitions and was voted the player of the year. He finished his Chelsea career with 312 appearances and 80 goals in seven years and is often voted as the best player to ever call Stamford Bridge home.
Since his retirement no other Chelsea player has worn the number 25 shirt but it has never been officially retired by the club. Zola has found his next passion in management and has since coached the Italy U21s as an assistant manager, managed West Ham United and Watford, and has been previously linked to the vacant Leeds United position. Gianfranco Zola is one of the best, if not the best, players to ever pull on a Chelsea shirt and he was a key figure in Chelsea’s transition from Premier League also-rans to a global powerhouse.
For a little taste of what Gianfranco Zola did in a Chelsea shirt check out this Youtube video:
Follow us on Twitter at @PrideOLondon
Like us on Facebook at The Pride of London